Saturday, August 16, 2014

Great British Beer Festival 2014, Kensington Olympia

We attended the Great British Beer Festival in Kensington Olympia on the Wednesday night. I think going earlier in the week has proved to be a win: although busy, it wasn't as crushingly overcrowded as Friday or Saturday, beers were still in plentiful supply (even many of the popular ones, although this year and last year's medallists ran out before I could get to them) and the atmosphere was generally relaxed, staff in a good mood, etc. There were fewer tables scatted around the whole venue than we've seen before, but a large seating area off in the side room catered for pretty much everybody who wanted to sit down for the evening—we only had to lurk for five minutes before spotting a half-table opening that we gradually colonized.

I didn't take full tasting notes of everything I drank this evening, but a few highlights are below:

  • I couldn't resist opening the evening with a tall glass of Brains, Dark, an old favorite that I still associate with chocolate and bacon, although the intense, bitter smokiness is also redolent of strong, boiled coffee. ****/5
  • Harviestoun, Track n Field, a pale ale I hadn't come across before from one of the more interesting Scottish breweries (I presume this was a tribute beer for the recent Glasgow Commonwealth Games?), is very tart and hoppy. Starting with a zesty aroma and citrus sweetness, it then offers spicy, pithy bitterness that lingers, with a bit of a wince-making aftertaste. Delicious, although I don't know how I'd feel about three pints of this intensely bitter beer. (I imagine I could be persuaded…) ****/5
  • We were excited to spot Stringers, Plan B, a gluten-free ale: very pale to look at, with a farmyard smell of damp straw. Tangy first taste with iron and early fruit; then a bit musty and dungy in the mouth, with watery but pleasant mild fruity hop finish. There's not much by way of lingering aftertaste, but a lovely hit of grapefruit zest hovers just after the swallow. ***/5
  • Another old favorite that I just could resist was Cairngorm's Trade Winds (dubbed by a picky Belgian drinker as "even better than the Belgian beer!"): sweet, hoppy, lingering grapefruit and elderflower. Gorgeous. Has a floury, European aftertaste. *****/5
  • Orkney, Dark Island: What can I say—I couldn't help myself! *****/5
  • Highlands, Scapa Special: a rich gold color, with ripe hay-bale odor, dry and peppery first taste, but sparkly and woody in the mouth, just a bit chewy. There's fruit pith and lime-zest in the swallow, leading to a dull bitterness, but robust and satisfying aftertaste. Good. Not counting old favorites, one of the top beers of the night! ****/5
  • White Horse, Camarillo: serves cloudy but clears to pure gold. Summer grass or parsley aroma; sweet, ripe tree-fruit on the tip of the tongue, tangy and earthy/loamy in the mouth. Bitterly tart on the swallow, lingering with cyanide nuttiness. Felt dirty, but in a good way. ****/5
  • Leatherbritches, Bitter: a clear gold ale, with a slightly sweaty aroma; sparkly apple and cherry in the first taste, then some honey and a bit sickly in the swallow, followed by a tart bitterness that sticks but isn't at all bad. I'd drink more of this, if it weren't already 11pm when I had this glass. ***/5
Beers of the night (not counting Trade Winds or Dark Island, which wouldn't be a fair competition) were Harviestoun's Track n Field (from Clackmannanshire), and Highlands Scapa Special (from the Swannay Brewery on Orkney). I'll keep a close eye out for them in future!

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